A few years ago, Kathleen Shaputis and her husband decided to move out of state. The decision was driven by his desire to take a better job and her wish to downsize from a big suburban house to a small cottage in the woods.
But from the outset the couple's dreams were challenged by their 20-something children, who protested the sale. Later, two of them moved into the new property and stayed for a year, cramping the couple's style, recalls Shaputis, author of "The Crowded Nest Syndrome."
Nowadays, boomerang children, who move back into the family nest, are more abundant than ever, according to Shaputis and others who've researched the trend. One reason is that many 20-somethings are now unemployed. But the larger issue relates to what some experts say is an "entitlement mentality" on the part of many young adults.
"Many children of baby boomers are stuck in a prolonged adolescence. They're used to getting their way and many parents have been willing to float them indefinitely," says Bruce Tulgan, author of "Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y."
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One way parents often cater to their grown children is to continue sending them money, even after they've completed their schooling. Another is to let them return to the family nest to live rent-free. And a third is to give them veto power over their housing choices.
For example, Tulgan says parents who decide to sell a long-time family property are often surprised to get "a world of guff" from their grown kids who want their childhood memories left untouched.
Unfortunately, the current economic crisis leaves some older parents with few choices. They must liquidate their large family home to safeguard their retirement. On the other hand, others who don't have to sell still want to make a voluntarily transition to a lifestyle more to their liking.
Would you and your spouse like to make a major housing move now that your kids have reached their 20s or beyond? If so, these pointers could prove helpful:
- Firm up your plans before informing your offspring.
Whatever their needs or wants, Shaputis says the parents of grown children should put their own preferences ahead of their kids' wishes and not give the kids veto power over their choices.
However, Shaputis says it's unwise to make a major real estate move - such as selling a longtime residence or buying a different place - without informing your grown children before the changes occur.
"If you spring your plans on the kids after they've happened, this could come as a rude shock that causes needless conflict within the family," she says, adding that it's ideal to choose a restaurant or another public venue to tell the kids of your plans.
- Assist your kids to make a smooth transition emotionally.
Some people find it more difficult to handle change than do others. Although they've already reached their 20s and may be living independently, your kids could find the sale of your family home especially hard emotionally.
Though you don't want to forfeit your overall housing plans to please your kids, she says you can help them make a smoother transition with reassurances that they're welcome to visit no matter where you live.
- Help guide your boomerang children to a place of their own.
If you have grown children living with you who will need to move when your home is sold, Shaputis says you can "sit down with them and brainstorm about how they could make it on their own."
Of course, the harsh realities of the current economy may require both parents and their grown children to make some temporary accommodations. For example, as Shaputis says, you might need to delay the sale of your large family home until a divorced daughter with an infant can find a job that will cover the cost of both a rental unit and suitable child care for the baby.
"Sometimes the whole family simply has to pull together to make ends meet. This has been going on since the beginning of time," she says.
- Realize that good parenting is not always about yielding to the kids.
Alyson Schafer, a psychotherapist and author of several books on parenting, says there's no reason parents should feel guilty when they assert their right to make their own housing choices, especially after their kids have grown.
"And remember, you can love them from any type of home - even a high-rise condo in the city," she says.